By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell (Guest Blogger)
Scripture Readings: Proverbs 25
Key Verse: Proverbs 25:17 (NIV, Life Application Bible)
“Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house—too much of you, and they will hate you.”
Proverbs 25 contains proverbs written by Solomon primarily for the king and those who dealt with the king (per commentary of the NIV Bible); however, many of them are applicable to everyday communication and relationships with others. This particular proverb is one that everyone can relate to, I think.
Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries! In my husband’s ministry, he regularly encounters troubled people–more often than not, their problems stem from not being able to set and keep appropriate social boundaries with others. These are primary problems in communication that can make lives miserable. Paul regularly buys and gives away copies of the book, “Boundaries” by Cloud and Townsend to help people with their boundaries issues. If you have relationship problems with others, I highly recommend your reading this book.
This proverb reminds me also of my early adult years and talking with male friends about dating issues. I recall wondering why a few women of my acquaintance who seemed to be attractive and smart didn’t date much and remember the guys telling me of each of them, “she talks too much.” And what they meant by that was that the women were “know-it-alls,” or self-absorbed and talked about themselves too much. To these guys, there was “too much talk.” These were not guys who had a lack of interest in conversation, but there was not enough give and take, not enough opportunity for them to participate, and there wasn’t enough mystery in the discovery of learning and appreciating another person. They were bored by “TMI” or “too much information” that seemed “over the top.” And the women were trying so hard to sell themselves that they didn’t get to know the men they were dealing with, so it was one-sided and imbalanced.
And with regard to your neighbors, boundaries issues can get especially touchy. No one likes someone encroaching on their space too much. If you stay too long when you visit or you come too often when your neighbor is fixing dinner or trying to get chores done, you take their time that they don’t really want to give to you. Some people need more space than others and it behooves us to learn that about the people we befriend. The old sitcoms were great at depicting the “nosy neighbor” next door. The t.v. show “Bewitched” had the character “Mrs. Kravits” who was always staring out her window and telling her husband what the Stevens family was up to. And when she couldn’t see enough to satisfy her curiosity, she would take a coffee cup over to their house and “borrow some sugar.” It made for hilarious comedy, because we all know people like that.
This proverb is the “don’t overstay your welcome” proverb—it means knowing how to discern when you’ve invaded someone else’s space too long and when it’s time to go home. It begs us to regard others with respect and to monitor ourselves in how we interact with them. A good salesman will tell you that you need to remember that “it’s not about you—it’s about them”—to sell yourself to others, think of their needs, not yours.
Friends are a good thing to have in this world—we should love them, pray for them, respect and honor them by being good friends ourselves.
Jesus said it best: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”